Blue Teapot Theatre Company’s romantic comedy Sanctuary is a candid exploration of some of the issues which affect the lives of people with intellectual disability. The play, which features a cast of actors with intellectual disabilities, is currently enjoying a run at the Blue Teapot Theatre in Muster Avenue as part of the Galway Arts Festival.
Written by Christian O’Reilly specifically for Blue Teapot and directed by Petal Pilley, Sanctuary is a romantic comedy built around a poignant core message — namely that people with intellectual disabilities have the same romantic and sexual needs as everyone else, but can struggle to maintain romantic relationships due to the systems which exist to protect and care for them.
The play centres on Larry (Kieran Coppinger ) and Sophie (Charlene Kelly ), a young couple who take advantage of a group trip to the cinema to finally spend some time alone together, with the help of care worker Tom (Robert Doherty ). Their tentative forays in love and lust explore some painful truths, for example the fact that it is illegal for people with intellectual disabilities to have sex outside marriage; while this law exists to protect people from exploitation, it also serves to complicate and stigmatise genuine relationships.
Both Kelly and Coppinger offer stand-out performances, deftly taking the audience from laughter to the brink of tears and back again as they explore their complicated and restricted lives and discuss their hopes and fears for the future. Meanwhile Sandy (Emer Macken ) is hilarious in her romantic pursuit of an initially reluctant Peter (Michael Hayes ). Patrick Becker puts in a solid dramatic performance as Andrew, the agitator of the group, while Valerie Egan offers a perfect counterfoil to his jealous rage as the quiet, caring, Alice. Paul Connolly and Frank Butcher are hilarious as Matthew and William, offering a comic narrative throughout the group scenes.